All posts by Kenn

Writing 101

What’s the one piece of advice I would give someone who wants to be a screenwriter?

Write.

It really is that simple. The more you write the better your writing will become. Screenwriters don’t think about being a screenwriter, they don’t dream of writing that great script someday… They Write!
In the last year I have written 18 screenplays:

  • 1 feature-length script for Dead Hunt
  • 7 episodes for The Amygdala Project
  • 4 screenplays that I have already filmed
  • 4 that are ready to be filmed
  • 1 that I am working on with another writer
  • 1 new screenplay that I started writing last night

I was also asked to write the pilot episode for a TV series. We still have to hammer out the details and sign some paperwork, but I consider it a win just to be asked to write the pilot.

If there’s such a thing as a downside to filmmaking it would be that between writing, producing, filming and editing I don’t have any time left to write new short stories or work on Dead Hunt 2. I barely have time to work on the courses I am creating. But considering how much I love filmmaking I don’t really consider that a downside.

When I am not writing I am watching how-to videos on directing, lighting, blocking and every facet of filmmaking that I can find. Like most things, if you want to learn how to do something you have to immerse yourself in it as much as you can, but keep in mind that you can only learn so much from reading and watching videos, at some point you have to put aside the manuals and just start doing it, because no one ever got wet from hearing the word water. You have to jump in.

Writers write… so start writing.

When I decided to take action and fulfill my life-long dream of being a filmmaker, one of the first books I read was “Rebel Without a Crew” by Robert Rodriquez. It’s not a how-to manual per se, but it does tell the story of how he made his feature-length movie “El Mariachi” on a shoestring budget. Whenever I am writing a new screenplay I always start with his advice of “Use what you have.”
I take stock of what I have (or can borrow) for props and locations and then I start writing.


Recommended by Kenn:

When I decided to take action and fulfill my life-long dream of being a filmmaker, one of the first books I read was “Rebel Without a Crew” by Robert Rodriquez. It’s not a how-to manual per se, but it does tell the story of how he made his feature-length movie “El Mariachi” on a shoestring budget. Whenever I am writing a new screenplay I always start with his advice of “Use what you have”  – I take stock of what I have (or can borrow) for props and locations and then I start writing.

About the book:

In Rebel Without a Crew, famed independent screenwriter and director Robert Rodriguez (Sin City, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Spy Kids) discloses all the unique strategies and original techniques he used to make his remarkable debut film, El Mariachi, on a shoestring budget.
This is both one man’s remarkable story and an essential guide for anyone who has a celluloid story to tell and the dreams and determination to see it through.
Part production diary, part how-to manual, Rodriguez unveils how he was able to make his influential first film on only a $7,000 budget. Also included in the appendix: “The Ten Minute Film Course” a tell-all on how to save thousands of dollars on film school and teach yourself the ropes of film production, directing, and screenwriting.

Click here to order Rebel Without a Crew

 


About the Author:photo of Author, and Filmmaker Kenn Crawford

Kenn Crawford is a published songwriter, author and filmmaker from Glace Bay, Nova Scotia.
Click HERE to watch his YouTube Videos

 

What ever happened to…?

Picture of filmmaker Kenn CrawfordThe road to filmmaking is paved with ups and downs. Sometimes it’s not even a road and it’s just a hint of a trail. Other times I have to blaze new trails and learn new skills as I go along.

Sometimes my compass is broken and I get lost while other times I find my way, but through it all the burning desire to turn my story ideas into a visual form to share with people like you has never faltered.

I love film making, and I like to think I’m getting pretty good at it. I don’t expect to win any awards anytime soon – that’s not why I do it – I just love writing new scripts and working with a cast and crew to bring that screenplay to life.

Ironically, Dead Hunt, the project that got me started on my filmmaking journey, has never come to fruition – and it could be years before it ever sees the light of day. In this blog post I wrote about how I had to postpone it until 2017 because we simply were not going to be ready unless we cut a lot of corners.
Cuts that would have ruined the story.
Corners I was not willing to cut.
The more experience I get making my short films, the more I realized that I’m not ready to tackle a project as big as Dead Hunt.

Not yet.
Blind ambition has its place, but it can also lead you down a dark path. One of the times my compass was broken and I got lost was when I wrote and began filming The Amygdala Project. It was an ambitious undertaking to say the least and would have taken the entire summer to film because we could only shoot it on the weekends. Bad weather, scheduling conflicts and other problems reared their ugly head and my 13 episode mini-series was cut to 9 episodes. Then to 7. Then trying to piece together a single story rather than a mini-series.

But we still ran out of time.

My inexperience as a director, coupled with trying to learn how to direct from behind the camera while keeping an eye on all the technical aspects of filmmaking led to a few missteps, false starts and ruined footage. It was a learning experience to say the least.

Sadly, by the time we were forced to wrap up shooting we simply didn’t have enough coverage. I wanted to shoot all the heavy dialog and character building scenes at the end because they were the most important parts of the story . I felt the on-camera chemistry would have been so much better because everyone was no longer strangers working on a new project, they would have been a tight-knit family. The best laid plans of mice and men… We simply ran out of time.

Without those key scenes there was no story – just a random collection of scenes that could not be strung together in any logical order because there were so many plot holes and missing pieces.

Editing a film is like putting a jig saw puzzle together – by themselves each little piece of the puzzle doesn’t really seem like much, but lose one piece and you’ll never have a complete picture. Now imagine a third of the pieces are missing – you don’t even have a picture,  just a collection of little pieces that could be something great if only you had the rest of the pieces.

It pains me to say that the Amygdala Project is dead. I wrote new scenes to be filmed at a later date to try and fill in those glaring plot- holes. I tried changing it into more of a dramatic story rather than an action flick. I tried editing what I did have – none of it worked. Too many pieces of the puzzle were missing.

Amygdala was a great learning experience and I got to meet and become friends with some wonderful people, I just wish I had something to show them for all their hard work. Someday I will cut together a reel of the best footage to showcase what they have accomplished, but spending too much time working on a failed project can be dangerous and depressing. Someday I will cut that footage… just not today.

Today I am fine-tuning the new story I wrote while editing the latest film I shot called UNSCHEDULED VISIT.
WINTER’S HUNT, is waiting for one final piece of footage to be shot and then I can release it.
THE BATTLE WITHIN and THE FINAL GOODBYE have both been released and we will be shooting THE INTERROGATION within the next couple of weeks.

It’s been a roller-coaster ride and I’m starting to pick up steam.
The pitfalls and disappointments of independent filmmaking will never dissuade me because I am passionate about filmmaking and my best screenplays, my best films, are still inside me… and I’m just getting warmed up.

Get Adler (Director’s Cut)

Image of the Get Adler gameA while back I directed and shot a commercial for the award-winning game, GET ADLER.

The game’s creator originally said he only wanted a close up of the actress he hired to be sitting down and talking on the phone. As the director and a filmmaker, I felt we could do much better than just a talking head, so my girlfriend and I designed a set to look like an office from the time period of the game (1930’s) and I added a bit of movement and drama to the shoot.

The storyline I came up with was Agent Gold comes back to her office so she can call Inspector Sharpe and ask for his help, but she believes she is being followed by Adler, the rogue agent. Once she is in her office she locks the door, peaks through the blinds to see if he is following her, then goes to her gun cabinet so she can protect herself before she sits down to call the Inspector.

For hours Margie and I rearranged my living room to create the 1930’s-era office, complete with pictures of the King and Prime Minister of that time and an antique tea set. I used an old leather camera bag and a leather briefcase to help hide the modern day baseboard rads. We spent hours tweaking the set so it was just right. I even researched paperclips to make sure they were invented back then before I used one to attach Adler’s photo to the file folder.

During post-production I sent my edit to the game’s creator – he requested a piece cut here and a section cut there until eventually the final commercial was just her sitting at the desk talking on the phone like he originally wanted. It’s his commercial so the client is always right, but I was quite proud of our set that no one would ever see – so here’s my “Director’s Cut” of the shoot: